What’s the Playbook to Effectively Bring Media into Social?


Will social agencies become media buyers or will media agencies learn social content strategy?

I have been talking about this for over a year and people thought I was crazy.

I distinctly remember sitting on the beach in Montauk last summer discussing this topic with one of my friends (who also works in the social space, and she agreed with me.) I said, “Every algorithmic change Facebook has made over the last year has decreased the organic reach for brands and indicator this will continue to happen. When will people realize that a community manager’s current role is not sustainable unless they are trained as media buyers.”


Everyone is talking about how Facebook’s drop in organic reach has changed the social game to a pay to play market. The thing is, Facebook is not the only social platform on the planet—it’s just the biggest, everyone’s most popular pretty blue default platform. Brands can’t reach consumer audiences anymore (audiences are essentially rented via the platform they engaged with them on—they don’t “own” them or have access to them outside of that platform.)

A lot of brands have reacted to the news and stepped forward saying they’re “diversifying their marketing strategy more by putting an emphasis on their owned websites instead.” Note- the strategist inside me wishes they had said “we saw equal or increased traffic/activity on our owned website and that has prompted us to refocus on that.” Analytics don’t lie and should inform your choices.

Whatever it takes for the wakeup call to happen. But the thing is this. Facebook is not the only social platform your audiences are on…. with a paid ad component. Social marketing, regardless of the platform, requires investment not only in creating and posting content for a specific platform specs, but also to attract and sustain an audience. That is a fact.

Twitter also has a VERY robust ad product which I used for the Birdi Indiegogo campaign and actually outperformed other paid social campaigns we ran. (Inbox me for more detail on that if you want.)

Pinterest also has an ad product (a buy more expensive than the average one bedroom apt in NYC but who’s counting really?)

As does Instagram—(Thank god it’s heavily regulated against bad spamvertising) and Forrester just reported Instagram has the highest engagement of any social platform (Instagram engagement rate is 4.21 percent – i.e.: Instagram delivered these brands 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook, and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter.) Important to note—“engagement” (always subjective depending on your criteria) is great and all—but truth be told it is much harder to place or track a CTA from Instagram so I understand the initial hesitation from brands beyond awareness—time to challenge your strategists and creative teams.

Adapting. A never ending game

The more social platforms move to a paid model- the current roles/skills on our teams will need to adapt. The focus as of late has been an majority voice—social agencies need to mature. Makes sense.

Digiday said it perfectly today: “Social agencies — digital agencies that focus on advertising on the social Web — are arguably the most affected by these changes. When your business model is predicated on delivering results via social platforms, and the largest social platform changes how it treats ads, the only option is to adapt. Specifically, social agencies are being forced to mature into shops that combine research, media buying and higher quality creative work.”

Check. 360i, Deep Focus and Likeable Media are probably retooling their staffing plans/FTEs right now. But what about brand teams that have internal social teams and community managers—what now? What do they do?

Social content posted by brand community managers will eventually become “paid” media—so we are effectively, finally putting the media into social.

Case in point:

  • Do community managers have media buying experience, capabilities, do they have budgets for media spend? Probably not.
  • (Most of those “media” budgets are held by media buying teams)
  • Do media buying teams understand social content strategies, conversations and relationships? Probably not.

Possible solutions

An intersection of three disciplines will make this work. Disciplines with complementary skills that all contribute to social success.


I don’t think this hybrid model yet exists in one person- but maybe they are out there.

  • Perhaps we’ll see new roles emerge within agencies and brand teams.
  • Perhaps we’ll see more social agencies entering into partnerships with social ad-tech platforms like Ketchum did back in January with Kenshoo a company that supports automated buying across various social-media
  • Perhaps we’ll see media agencies try to make a play for a social strategy, creative and content capability.

Time will tell.

But it’s all intersecting right now and calling for a new playbook to effectively bring media into social.

Reprinted by permission.

About the author: Jess Seilheimer

Jess Seilheimer is the Chief Strategy Officer at MWW. She has 14+ years experience in advertising/marketing across brand strategy, product marketing; both in traditional & digital media.

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